Helping a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Bathe

bath alzheimersEven with normal aging, bathing becomes more difficult as we get older. However, the particular challenges of Alzheimer’s disease make this everyday ritual all the more nerve-wracking. If you’re finding it almost impossible to get mom or dad squeaky clean, read on for some advice.

First, consider why bathing has become more difficult. Does mom think she just showered an hour ago when in reality it’s been a couple days? Does dad not know what to do once he’s in the tub, and thus gets frustrated? Does your loved one not know what’s happening and become fearful once they’re all wet? Once you’ve figured out why they’re avoiding this activity, you can better address the problem.

If memory-related issues are the challenge, try to make taking a bath fun. For example, let mom know that you’ve planned an enjoyable outing where she’ll need to get dressed up, so that’s the reason why she needs to take a bath “again.”

If your loved one is fearful or uncomfortable when taking a bath, see what you can do to correct this. Turn up the heat if the room is too cold, or install grab bars so that your loved one can support themselves. Stools for the tub and hand-held shower heads are also popular with the elderly. As you help your loved one, go slowly and explain what you’re doing. The bath will be much less frightening for them if they know what’s coming next. If your loved one is very frightened at bath time, sponge baths may be your best bet. You may also want to purchase some dry shampoo so that you don’t have to get them in the bath as frequently.

Finally, consider whether your own expectations of cleanliness are part of the problem. Though the norm now in 2013 is to wash up daily, when your loved one was younger this wasn’t always the case. For example, in rural areas 75 years ago running water was a luxury, and many farm families took baths once per week. So keep in mind that your loved one may not be used to taking baths as often as you think they should, and that a bath every few days may make them a lot less stressed without causing much real harm.

Making bath time a comfortable and welcome experience for seniors with Alzheimer’s is a challenge, but with some adjustments it can become a manageable task.